Stress – you can’t live a good life with too much of it, and very few of us live without it. At least to some extent stress is all around – carrying the financial load of the family, caring for an elderly parent, a sick child, or taking on a burden in the workplace. Sometimes stress is like a blanket, wrapping around you and completely enveloping you in it’s hold. On other days you may feel care free as though stress can’t touch you. Your body has a way to handle stress, at least for the short term. It has only been in the recent years that we are learning the deep ties that long term stress has to our health.
Stress can categorized as either acute or chronic
Acute stress is the type of stress that is most common. It comes on quickly and is short lived such as a minor auto accident. Your blood pressure rises and body gets flooded with an abundance of stress hormones, allowing for the fight or flight response. Once the stressor goes away your body systems returns back to normal. This natural alarm system is a good way to “wake up” the body and allows the brain to control motivation, fear, and your mood. This type of stress is what our stress response system was created for.
Chronic stress is created by long lasting circumstances that seemingly never go away. This includes the type of stress that develops in an unfulfilling job or a dead marriage. This type of stress will elicit an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones as with acute stress. However when the stressor doesn’t go away the ever-present activation of the stress hormones can disrupt all of the body’s normal processes. The overexposure of stress hormones can create a plethora of health problems including:
- blood sugar dysregulation such as insulin resistance
- thyroid impairment
- digestive disorders such as nausea, gastric reflux, diarrhea, or constipation
- heart disease
- difficulty with weight loss
- anxiety and depression
- sleep disturbances
Stress can also be classified as psychological or physical
Psychological stress bears on your mind and feels like strain and pressure. It can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. These are the every day stressors that most people think about when you say the word “stress,” such as being stuck in traffic, or having a difficult conversation with someone. This type of stress can be acute or chronic. The acute stress has benefits, as it can improve athletic performance or allow you the umph for presenting in public. However when this becomes chronic stress – such as when going through divorce or caring for an elderly parent – it becomes more problematic creating the same cascade of stress hormones, resulting in similar health challenges.
Physical stress is a type of stress where you may or may not feel the burden because this is going on inside the body. This stress can also be acute, such as having the flu, or recovering from minor surgery. Physical stress can also be chronic, such as having uncontrolled blood sugar or an infection or inflammation that is not addressed. Often the chronic, physical stress is some of the most challenging because we get comfortable with it, and often forget it’s going on leaving it unaddressed.
Dealing with stress
Chronic, physical stress will not just go away and ignoring it can create a cascade of additional physical stresses. Sleep, eating well, and exercising can do wonders to aid with physical stresssors. You may also need a practitioner to help you.
Psychological stress can be dealt with in numerous ways and it’s not a one size-fits-all. Here are some ways to deal with your emotional stress:
- Exercise. Get moving can be a way to alleviate stress. Running, kick boxing, and spinning can be great ways to relieve stress.
- Focused movement. Such movement as chi gong, tai chi, or yoga can slow you down just enough to pay attention to the movement of the moment, letting go of everything else at that time.
- Partaking in your hobbies. Many people have hobbies that they haven’t participated in for various reasons, but doing the things you enjoy is an excellent stress relief.
- Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt. Taking a little time to relax is always helpful. Plus the magnesium in Epsom salt does wonders to help to relax your muscles.
- Meditation or prayer. Regardless of your religious beliefs you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to allow room for your higher power.
- Spending time with friends. Allowing for time with the people who believe in you can help you breathe new life when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
- Have fun and laugh. We often feel like there is no time for fun, especially when life gets stressful. However carving out time to do the things that make you smile can go a long way. And as you know, laughter is the best medicine for anything.
Resisting the urge to curl up in a ball and seclude yourself from the world is important when dealing with stress. While it may feel like the right thing to do at the time, you must get up, get dressed, and get out.